Stubble burning: NGT notice to Centre over aid to Punjab

New Delhi, Oct 13 (IANS) The National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Friday sent notices to the Union Environment and Agriculture Ministries seeking details on the financial support sought by Punjab government to incentivise its farmers against stubble burning.

The unabated stubble burning in Punjab and Haryana, estimated to be around 35 million tonnes, is deteriorating the air quality of the National Capital on a daily basis and was banned by the tribunal in November 2015.

The NGT also sent notice to the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC), seeking details regarding the claims that it showed interest in buying stubble from the farmers in states next to Delhi to use the residue as fuel.

Earlier this month, the Punjab government sought Rs 2,000 crore as financial help from the central government to support its farmers by removing paddy straw from the fields to avoid its burning.

The demand was raised by the Punjab government in a meeting with Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh.

The bench, headed by NGT chief Justice Swatanter Kumar, while hearing a petition filed by environmentalist Vikrant Tongad on Friday thus issued notices to NTPC, Environment Ministry and the Agriculture Ministry.

“What kind of help is being extended to the Punjab government to help them incentivise the farmers against stubble burning,” it asked and sought an explanation by Tuesday.

“The NTPC along with some biomass power plants, according to some reports, had expressed their willingness to buy paddy residue from the farmers of the neighbouring states,” counsel of farmers I.K. Kapila told IANS.

The tribunal had earlier rapped the Punjab government for not incentivising the farmers or assisting them to manage the crop residue.

During the last hearing of the matter, several farmers from Punjab gathered outside the NGT office, alleging that the state government did not help them and is now threatening them with penalties.

The NGT on Wednesday also asked the Punjab government to bring 21 farmers it had claimed to have supported against stubble burning. Some “12 farmers appeared, no one raised objection to that”, Kapila said.

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